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Men on trial accused of countryside scam in Kent by trying to defraud almost £3m from the government

A duo stand accused of trying to rake in almost three million pounds of taxpayers’ cash in an elaborate countryside scam, a jury was told.

Andrew Wills, 48 from Speldhurst, and Robin Turney, 41, from Warwickshire, reportedly tried to fleece the government for more than a year.

A tractor ploughing a field. Stock picture: Thinkstock Image Library
A tractor ploughing a field. Stock picture: Thinkstock Image Library

The pair allegedly launched numerous fraudulent bids to swindle grant money designed to boost rural economies.

A third man pleaded guilty to his part in the plot and is expected to give evidence in a month-long trial at Canterbury Crown Court.

Prosecutor James Thacker argued the gang tried cheating £2.7 million of Countryside Productivity Scheme grant money between 2015-2017.

He claims farming consultant Turney colluded with Wills to ensure his firm International Controlled Atmosphere was awarded government cash.

But both men deny their part in the scheme and Wills, represented by Chris Daw QC and Turney, represented by Adrian Maxwell, are yet to argue their case.

The pair are on trial at Canterbury Crown Court
The pair are on trial at Canterbury Crown Court

The cash was never paid out after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs became suspicious.

Mr Thacker told the jury: “We say that Mr Turney had knowledge of, and encouraged, false quotations to be provided so that International Controlled Atmosphere won the contract.

“The only dispute is whether in fact there was an intention for them to be used in the commission of fraud.

“We say Mr Wills had the knowledge of the creation of the quotations by overseeing and ultimately approving them before they were seen by others.

“Mr Turney asserts he supplied the quotations to the agency in good faith and had no knowledge of fraud.”

S Combine harvester. Stock picture: Ian Nicholson/PA
S Combine harvester. Stock picture: Ian Nicholson/PA

He claimed emails between the defendants and third parties revealed the defendants were complicit.

The court heard Wills won nine Rural Development Scheme handouts to carry out work on farms.

Under the grant scheme, farmers must provide quotes from two independent companies, as well as their preferred contractor.

But the defendants allegedly invented fake quotations from numerous firms at higher rates, so Wills’ ICA company undercut the bogus competition and won the government handouts.

The ploy reportedly unravelled when Defra investigator Susie Toddington probed the companies, who confirmed they hadn’t created the quotations.

Farmer seeding crops at field. Stock picture
Farmer seeding crops at field. Stock picture

Simon Fitch, 46, of Old Hadlow Road in Tonbridge, pleaded guilty to Making and Supplying Articles for use in Fraud at Maidstone Crown Court on in June last year.

Andrew Wills, of Church Yard Cottage in Speldhurst, denies possession of articles for use in fraud.

Robin Turney, of Pools Barn Farm, Henley, Arden, denies supplying articles for use in Fraud andknowingly or recklessly furnishing false or misleading information.

The trial continues.

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